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The sun reflecting off the snow; the wind blistering exposed parts; the cold, dry air sucking out the moisture – winter is a tough time to be your skin.
That’s why you need to take steps to winterize your body’s largest organ, says Dermatological Nurse Practitioner Lindsay McCarthy. She and her fellow providers at Associated Dermatology and Skin Care Clinic of Helena see a lot of patients with irritant dermatitis, a broad term describing skin rashes caused by the elements and other things that make contact with the skin.
Here are 8 recommendations for taking care of your skin this winter:
1. Take it easy with the cleanser. Harsh soaps loaded with chemicals dry out your skin. You might not notice in the summer, but in winter, when the air is already dry, it can aggravate your skin’s parched condition. Look for unscented soaps calling themselves hypo-allergenic or gentle. Brands specializing in gentle cleansing include Neutrogena, Cetafil, and Vani Cream.
2. …and your laundry detergent too. Look for hypo-allergenic laundry detergent, double-rinse your clothing and avoid dryer sheets, whose residue can stick to your clothing and irritate your skin.
3. Bathe your skin – in moisturizer. As soon as you step out of the bath or shower (which shouldn’t be too hot – that’s drying too) lather on the moisturizer. Your skin’s pores are open and the cells are more receptive to the moisturizing than at any other time. McCarthy says nurturing your skin within a minute or two of bathing is the equivalent of moisturizing 10-12 times throughout the day. She recommends creams rather than lotions, which tend to provide less nourishment.
4. Humidify. Give your skin a fighting chance by adding a humidifier to your home. It will add moisture, which the heater is removing, especially if you burn wood.
5. Moisturize from the inside. Drink water, that is. Put the liquids back into your body that the wind and cold are sucking out.
6. Don’t forget the sunscreen. Montana in the winter might seem like an odd place for sunscreen, but the rays that hit your skin when you’re cross-country skiing, snowboarding or shoveling come from the same sun as during the summer. The difference is, they’re getting you from both ends as they reflect off the snow. Lather on the SPF 30 or above at least 30 minutes before you head outside.
7. Think beyond your face. McCarthy and her colleagues see a lot of winter rashes on the tops of legs, upper arms, upper back and anywhere clothing rubs against skin. Don’t forget your hands, which need glove/mitten protection against the cold and dry outdoors, as well as against wetness. Make sure to wear gloves when you wash dishes and to put moisturizer on immediately after. It’s the evaporation that contributes to dryness.
8. Kiss your lips. Lip balms with menthol or other scents are hurting more than helping. Make your lips shine with a plain balm. Even Vaseline is better than balms with lots of stuff in them.
Associated Dermatology and Skin Care Clinic of Helena encourages a ““supportive skin regimen” that includes the steps above. “Anything we do to combat winter itch goes out the window without a good supportive skin care regimen,” says McCarthy.
If you’re struggling with chafed winter skin, contact Associated Dermatology and Skin Care of Helena for an appointment at (408) 442-3534 or firstname.lastname@example.org.